Column: Reinterpreting what is war

Our country was struck forcefully Tuesday, resulting, possibly, in the most devastating attack ever on any single nation. In a stream of events that could have leapt straight from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel, the core of the nation was severely damaged. The very ideas that draw people abroad to come live here, oftentimes dramatically altering or even risking their lives, have been destroyed. No longer is America a ?safe haven.? Was America ever a safe haven?

But who is to blame? Political analysts and experts spoke throughout the day about how this kind of attack was inevitable because we had never been properly shielded from such an attack, rather we were the victims of a false sense of national security. It is sickening to think about how much I took for granted: my state, my city, my home, my family, all were unharmed. Others who took these for granted were not so lucky.

Already, fingers are pointing toward the Middle East, but before we do that we must question ourselves. And I?m not talking about questioning the government?s national defense system that is a hotbed for political bickering, but rather the smaller picture. How is it possible that the four commercial airlines could be hijacked on the same day? Is airport security in this country that lax? Are we susceptible to this kind of attack on a daily basis?

Tuesday?s events do not happen in the United States. We stand alone. The land of the free. The home of the brave. Our mountains purple and majestic. How soon things change.

I once asked my grandfather about war. He wasn?t very candid, and now I know why.

What is war? Surely, I am not capable of answering that question intelligently. Instead, I would have to resort to making allusions to Hollywood, the institution that has provided me with what I believed most accurately portrayed it. Or maybe I would refer back to half-way forgotten chapters from my 11th grade history class.

It was brought to my attention Tuesday by a professor whom I was interviewing for one of the many stories that would have been published in today?s paper, that the word ?war? is an abstract idea to my generation. Not only my generation, but my parents? as well. Not to underestimate the significance of Vietnam or the Gulf War, but those fights were fought overseas, leaving an ocean between the battlefields and our sun-kissed nation.

War, to me, has always been anecdotal, never tangible. It became quite tangible Tuesday as the concept hit closer to home than it ever has, both emotionally and geographically.

An alarm clock went off yesterday. It wasn?t the kind that plays light-rock radio at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning. It wasn?t a small stopwatch that beeps harmlessly until you rise from slumber. It was the kind that emits a loud, blaring, repeated and lingering buzz at 8:45 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. The snooze button is disabled, and we cannot ignore it.

Ryan Meehan is a sophomore majoring in English literature and The Oracle news